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Mann ki baat: PM’s remembrance of tribal icon Bhagwan Birsa Munda upsets JMM

Ranchi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled the contributions of Jharkhand’s tribal legend and freedom fighter Bhagwan Birsa Munda on Sunday during his monthly Mann ki baat programme on a day which also coincided with BJP’s concluding ceremony of the national scheduled tribes conclave in Ranchi prompting the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) to dub PM’s symbolic remembrance as a political stance citing how during he never including Birsa during his previous programmes.

Addressing the nation, PM touched upon several legends and topics. On Birsa Munda, he said, “Dear countrymen, during this period of Amrit Mahotsav, we are remembering the brave sons and daughters of the country, those great and virtuous souls. Next month, the birth anniversary of one such icon and a brave warrior, Bhagwan Birsa Munda ji is falling on the 15th of November. Bhagwan Birsa Munda is also known as ‘Dharti Aaba’. Do you know what this epithet means? It means the father of earth. The way Bhagwan Birsa Munda fought to protect his culture, his forest, his land, it could have only been done by ‘Dharti Aaba’! He taught us to be proud of our culture and roots. The foreign rule subjected him to countless threats and applied immense pressure, but he did not relinquish the tribal culture.”

He added, “If we have to learn to love nature and the environment, then for that too, Dharati Aaba Bhagwan Birsa Munda is one of our greatest inspirations. He strongly opposed every such policy of foreign rule, which was detrimental for the environment. Bhagwan Birsa Munda was always at the forefront while helping the poor and the distressed.

“He also made the society aware towards eliminating social evils. Who can forget his leadership during the Ulgulan movement! This movement shook the British and as an aftermath the British had placed a huge reward on Bhagwan Birsa Munda. The British government put him in jail; he was tortured to such an extent that he left us at the age of less than 25years. He left us, but only in the body; in the public psyche, Lord Birsa Munda resides forever! His life remains an inspirational force for the people. Even today folk songs and stories, full of his courage and valour are very popular in the central region of India. I bow to ‘Dharti Aaba’ Birsa Munda and urge the youth to read more about him. The more you know about the unique contribution of our tribal populace in the freedom struggle of India, the more you will feel proud.”

BJP, which is in opposition in the state hailed Modi citing how he always regarded this tribal state and worked for its betterment. In a statement, state president Deepak Prakash said, “By remembering Birsa Munda, Prime Minister has exhibited his love and dedication for this state and its legends. BJP has always worked for this state, its people. It was late former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who ensured creation of a separate Jharkhand on November 15 on Birsa’s anniversary.”

JMM however smelt politics behind the surprised mention. A senior party leader said, “PM’s love for the state has always been superficial and BJP continues to do politics over our tribal figures. Had BJP not been holding its national ST meet in Ranchi, Modiji would never have taken the name of Birsa Munda. What is more ironic is that BJP’s ST meet didn’t delve on Sarna code, which is a long pending demands of the people in this state.”